There are plenty of headlines heading into this meeting of last year's NBA finals, most notably the historic run LeBron James is on, but in tonight's matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder it will be Kevin Durant who is the game-changer.
LeBron is the obvious choice to take control in this matchup. He is shooting a ridiculous percentage while still averaging over 30 points per game, but expending that kind of energy every night in the regular season will take it's toll on anyone, even LeBron.
The Heat are coming off their sixth straight win thanks to LeBron's otherworldly play, and they are looking to be playing some of their best basketball of the season. They have beaten five of their last six opponents by double digits, including Chris Paul's Clippers.
The Thunder on the other hand are coming off a tough loss to the Jazz on Tuesday in a game in which Kevin Durant committed his first career flagrant foul and got called out by the Jazz's Demarre Carroll for "dirty play".
This comes a month after Durant earned his first ejection in an NBA uniform. The pattern suggests that Durant may be shedding his calm, finesse game in an effort to assert himself as a veteran presence in the league.
Anyone who saw the flagrant knows that there wasn't much there, but Carroll calling Durant a dirty player may just be extra motivation for Durant to come out and light it up against King James and the Heat. Just as LeBron has done in the past, Durant will use this extra motivation to fuel his game.
It will be interesting to see if Durant keeps up this intensity against the Heat and LeBron, who he's been friendly with off of the court. The two superstars recently starred together in the newest Nike Basketball ad, and have known to be pals when not in season.
Add to that the simple fact that, despite their six-point loss to Miami in December, the Thunder are simply a better team this year than the Heat, and the stage is set for KD to take over in tonight's game.